Say you order a Pumpkin Spice Latte with extra whipped cream, but the barista gives you a decaf Mocha Frappuccino with no whip. Are you going to take a big slurp and say “Thank you!” No way! That’s not what you wanted!
Guess what girls? God isn’t a barista. We might have a specific idea of what we want out of our lives, but that’s not always what we get. You wanted a little sister, and instead you got three big brothers. You wanted to be a 5’8” blonde, and you’re a 5’3” brunette. So what’s a Christian girl to do? Say thank you. Unlike that barista, God knows exactly what you need, which doesn’t always align with what you want right now.
The apostle Paul had everything he wanted before he became a Christian: he was a head honcho of the Jews, respected and powerful. After he devoted his life to spreading the gospel, he suffered—a lot! On top of the beatings, imprisonment, frequent journeys where he was cold, hungry, and thirsty, and in danger of robbers and enemies of the church, he also had a thorn in his flesh. What was this physical problem? We don’t know: scholars have suggested a disfiguring eye disease or migraine headaches left over from a bout with malaria. You better believe Paul would have rather not suffered in this way. In fact, he asked God three times to take away this thorn. You know what God’s response was? “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
In your weakness, the power of Christ is made manifest. When we are weak, He is strong. You know what Paul said a little later? “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Can you believe he could be happy in his circumstances? Not only that, but to give thanks—in everything?
How did Paul manage to find something to be thankful for in these awful situations? What could he pray besides, “Why me? Why me, God?” He knew that God had placed him in that situation for a reason, so he did his best to continue shining his light, no matter what. When he was in jail, he ministered to the guards and other prisoners, and wrote letters to the churches. Guess what? Those letters are a big chunk of our New Testament! Can you see now that Paul’s suffering was for a great cause?
The same is true for your problems. They might not be as life-threatening as Paul’s, but they still rock your world. Don’t let them. Your world is focused on Christ, and He is unshakable. You can always be thankful for Him, and your life, and the Bible, and other Christians who are fighting the good fight. After Job’s children, servants, and livestock were killed, do you know what he said? “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity” (Job 2:10)? Both are needed to shape us into who God needs us to be, and to further His Word.
Paul and Job certainly didn’t order their lives with extra grief and a side of suffering. But life in Christ isn’t made to order. It’s given to us freely, with the promise of heaven attached. With that hope comes a grateful heart.